Book Review – The Great Gilly Hopkins

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Katherine Peterson

Hardback, 1978

Galadriel Hopkins is a foster child of the steryotypical foster child variety.  She’s a bully to her classmates, mean to her teachers, and downright awful to the people that she happens to be around.

So, this is another banned book, but since it’s by the same writer who did Bridge to Terabithia (also banned frequently, btw) I was actually sort of looking forward to it, even though I knew nothing about it.

Then I started reading.

If I had happened across this book, I wouldn’t have picked it up to begin with.  As it was now, I almost didn’t bother with it.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t know if it’s the character or the author’s writing, or both, but as the book started, there wasn’t a single character I cared about.  Gilly is a bitch, her teachers are weak, her case worker felt like a slimy used-car salesman…

There’s a mother totally out of the picture, but Gilly holds on hope she’ll come back for her, despite having never spoken to her.  The neighbor is “one of those” (ahem, black) and Gilly uses that as her excuse to justify stealing from him and treating him like crap. Her teacher is black so she leaves racist poetry tucked in the teacher’s math book. The one friend she manages to make, she’s only has because she wants to be abusive to the girl and the girl is too stupid to notice.  The foster brother is a little, uh, slow, and Gilly makes sure to exploit it.

Oh, and the foster mother, who is annoyingly southern, is also fat.  And I know she’s fat because the author has made sure that her being fat is her only memorable quality.  She sits and chairs sag and bedsprings squeak.  She falls and lands on top of Gilly, crushing her.

In other words, I’m sorry I read the book.  At the end, Gilly gets closer to what she wants, and that’s not good enough either.

So, The book is, I’m sure, banned because Gilly is a racist piece of crap.  I think that a better author or differently written book could have made it more “oh, look at the poor foster child” and less of that because a lot of the piece of crap part, at least, is her intentionally not getting close.  I wonder how differently this book would have been written if it had been done twenty years later – styles and approaches have changed, after all.

You, of course, all know my opinion – I don’t think any book should be banned.  But this one could be omitted from shelves because of its lack of quality just the same, and I wouldn’t mind.

Bottom Line – 2/5 pages.

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